With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about love. As I was reflecting on what to specifically address regarding love, I honed in on the skill and art of listening. If you want to express love to someone, a great way to start is to listen. In our loud and noisy world, listening is a rare skill and a fine art. As a pastor, I know of many marriages that could be exponentially better if both partners would learn and practice the skill and art of listening.
To that end, I want to suggest five things you can do to become better listener:
Stop talking – This sounds simple but you would be surprised by how many people think they are listening when they are really talking. You can’t listen if you are talking. Often when a person stops physically talking they are mentally focused on the next thing they are going to say rather than truly honouring the other person and listening unreservedly.
Give attention – This might sound like a radical idea but I would suggest that on your next date, you give each other your cell phones. This way you will know if there is an emergency but you won’t be constantly checking your phone for texts and emails. We live in a world that is clamouring for our attention; thus, a great expression of love and care is to focus in and give one’s entire attention to another person.
Actively listen – Don’t simply passively listen with your ears, actively listen with your entire body. Lean in, show you are listening, ask clarifying questions, etc. Demonstrate to the other person that you are listening to them.
Seek to understand rather than just comprehend – People confuse hearing with listening – they are not the same thing. Someone can hear you but that is very different than listening to you. Listening is about trying to understand the other person, honouring their words and ideas and trying to understand their perspective, dreams, thoughts and ambitions. Don’t just settle for hearing and comprehending someone, listen to them and try to understand them.
Ask for feedback – If you are in a relationship with someone, periodically ask them how you are doing listening to them. Let them know that you are trying to get better at it and that you value their help and feedback. Trust me, if you do this with your spouse or significant other, they will be grateful.
I guarantee that if you learn how to listen, all relationships will improve – specifically the one with your significant other. Learn to love; learn to listen.